Lorna Crozier says at its core, poetry is about finding new ways to articulate a truth. And that is a risky business.
Vancouver Island University has named the renowned Governor-General’s Award-winning Victoria poet its Ralph Gustafson Distinguished Poet for 2018, a yearly position endowed by its Ralph and Betty Gustafson Trust since 1999. She will take part in two free events: a reading at White Sails Brewing on Nov. 7 and a lecture at VIU on Nov. 8.
Crozier’s lecture is entitled Writing and Risk and will discuss the kinds of professional and personal risks poets face. It’s a topic Crozier is familiar with, as there was a time when her work was removed from a college curriculum in Medicine Hat, and a Manitoba MLA once said a magazine she contributed to should lose funding for publishing obscenity.
“When I was much younger I wrote a lot about female sexuality and I wrote feminist poems that some might have considered blasphemous,” she said, adding that that was never her intention. “I retold biblical stories from a pagan and feminist point of view. I wrote many poems offering a different take on heterosexuality and what marriage could be.”
Crozier said she’s also jeopardized family relationships by defying her mother’s wishes to write about the “shame and anger and hurt” caused by her father’s alcoholism.
“I’m not saying I was right to reveal it, but I did and I had to live with the consequences of that,” she said.
Crozier said those kinds of risks are necessary, because “you’ve got to reach some level of honesty and dig down, go to some depth, if you’re going to write anything that matters.” She said she’s moved when poets are relatable, show their vulnerability and reveal the human condition.
“I think if you don’t show the flaws, if you don’t look into the shadows and dig into the darkness, then you’re writing stuff that is in danger of being Hallmark greeting cards and being shallow instead of trying to go for what poetry tries to get at and that’s the great unknown and the great disturbing and all of those things that poetry wrestles with,” she said.
At White Sails Crozier returns to the theme of religion when she reads from her latest book, God of Shadows. In it, she explores “the concept of god in many guises.” It includes poems with titles like God of Arithmetic, God of Balconies and God of Noses.
“I had a great deal of fun with it,” Crozier said. “I just gave my imagination free range and my challenge to myself was how I write about this most abstract thing, God. How can I make it palpable and grounded and full of sensory details and still feel that I’m writing about something that’s holy and sacred in the everyday world.”
WHAT’S ON … Lorna Crozier reads at White Sails Brewing on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. The next day at 7 p.m. she presents her lecture, Writing and Risk, at VIU Building 355, Room 203. Both events open to the public.